Hunter Jones plays hero with walk-off grand slam

It’s only happened four times previously for the Senators. Not four times this season. Four times period.

Four times in 32 seasons. Four times in roughly 4,500 games.

The last time was over 17 years ago as Ron Calloway performed the feat on May 22, 2001 against the Portland Sea Dogs. The most famous was Milton Bradley’s giving Harrisburg the 1999 Eastern League championship.

But now we can add Hunter Jones to the list of walk-off grand slams in the history of the franchise.

Jones drive off Nick Pasquale into the left field seats capped a remarkable comeback giving the Senators a 6-3 victory over the Akron RubberDucks in the opening salvo of the three-game series.

“The boys have been fighting,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “It’s been a weird stretch of games for about two and a half weeks starting in Altoona. We’re finally starting to get a couple more big hits. I couldn’t have been prouder of everybody the way they fought.”

Deadlocked at one each, the Senators rallied in the eighth inning loading the bases. But Jones was thrown out at home after tagging up on Taylor Gushue’s line drive to center. The inning-ending double play kept the Senators from the lead and swung momentum in Akron’s favor.

The RubberDucks seized on the moment in the top of the ninth as second baseman Mark Mathias squared up a Derek Self offering that had just enough lift to make its way into the Senators’ bullpen for a 3-1 lead.

“In the eighth, we put some heat on them and got ourselves in a good situation,” LeCroy said. “Gushue hit the ball good, just not good enough to get Jones in. [Ka’ai] Tom made a good throw. And then Self elevated some balls. The momentum obviously shifted.”

Jake Noll led off the bottom half of the ninth inning with a single, followed by a walk to Austin Davidson. That was all for Akron reliever Jordan Milbrath as manager Tony Mansolino called for Pasquale to finish the game for the first-place RubberDucks.

The sidewinder induced a comebacker from Alec Keller that looked like a tailor-made double play, but Pasquale’s throw to the bag was in the dirt and shortstop Willi Castro couldn’t come up with it cleanly to load the bases. Osvaldo Abreu followed with a slow chopper down the line that third baseman Sam Haggerty’s only play was coming home for the force out. Instead the throw sailed past the catcher and the Senators drew to within one keeping the bases juiced for the hero of the night, Jones.

“I didn’t want to be swinging at something I didn’t want,” Jones said. “I just wanted to give myself a good opportunity to get a pitch I could do something with and not just swinging at something I see and react to. I know his ball sinks hard and he has a really good slider. I was just laying off the slider and waiting for that sinker to come in and I golfed it.”

“It was just a great team win,” Jones added.

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